How to enjoy a leisurely and fabulous three days in Lisbon

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Three days in Lisbon

CITY GUIDE: Best things to do in Lisbon, where to stay, eat and drink for three days in Lisbon

Lisbon is a place I like to visit, again and again. Whether it’s your first time or seventh, there is always so much to see and do in Lisbon. It’s like every corner you turn offers something new and exciting. There are squares spilling with party goers, restaurants filled with laughter, people spontaneously dancing in the street. Lisbon is electric. Lisbon is a city to be enjoyed a leisurely pace, this guide is designed for those looking to spend three days in Lisbon like the locals, slowly but enjoying every second.

This is the Lotus Eaters Travel City Guide for Lisbon, complete with the best things to do, where to stay and where to eat and drink for all budgets over three days in Lisbon. Don’t delay, book your trip to Lisbon today!

  1. Best time of year to visit Lisbon
  2. Has Lisbon become too popular?
  3. How long to spend in Lisbon
  4. Best things to do in Lisbon
    1. Find the best views of Lisbon (things to do in Lisbon)
    2. Get arty (things to do in Lisbon)
    3. Meander around Alfama and Graca (things to do in Lisbon)
    4. Visit Belem for monasteries and monuments (things to do in Lisbon)
    5. Cross the water (things to do in Lisbon)
  5. Best beaches near Lisbon
  6. Is the Lisbon Card worth it?
  7. Best restaurants in Lisbon
    1. Fancy restaurants in Lisbon
    2. Mid Range restaurants in Lisbon
    3. Budget restaurants in Lisbon
    4. Anything but sardines
  8. Best places to drink in Lisbon
    1. Sunset Drinks in Lisbon
    2. Wine Bars in Lisbon
    3. Cocktails in Lisbon
    4. Craft Beer in Lisbon
  9. Where to stay in Lisbon
    1. Where to stay on a budget in Lisbon
    2. Mid-range options in Lisbon
    3. Where to stay in luxury in Lisbon
  10. How to travel around Lisbon
    1. Want to get around quicker?
  11. How to get to Lisbon

When is the best time of year to visit Lisbon

Lisbon really can be an all year round destination. In summer, the city is alive and kicking with fiestas and parties galore. But it is also hot and sticky, and teeming with tourists. Expect temperatures to hover at around 30C. Spring and autumn can be much more pleasant in the range of 20 to 25C. If you want a quieter and cooler trip, then consider coming to Lisbon in the winter.

In the peak summer months, many restaurants become so popular in Lisbon that they have queues out the door. Tourists hover incongruously cooling themselves with fans, hoping to grab the first available table before it has even been cleaned. Outside our apartment window in Alfama, we hear a walking tour pass every twenty minutes. All this and not to mention the increasing numbers of Digital Nomads now calling Lisbon home.

Has Lisbon become a victim of it’s own tourism success? Is it simply just too popular? And is Lisbon still worth visiting?

Honestly, it depends on what you want as a traveller. Plus, how you feel about the concept of “over tourism” and the negative impact this may have. In the summer, Lisbon is incredibly busy, yes. But it is also incredibly international, diverse and alive. As I write this, we are a week away from Lisbon hosting an international youth forum, which includes a visit from the Pope. That is how much Lisbon is now on the world stage.

If you are hankering after quiet beaches (the train ride from Lisbon to Cascais is so packed in the summer that it feels unbearable) and meandering around sleepy streets – this is not what you will find in Lisbon in the summer. And, don’t even think about visiting Pena Palace in the peak season (more on that here.) But, if you like your city breaks vibrant – you can’t beat Lisbon. Personally, I’d consider a visit in the off-season, especially if it’s your first time here. Everyone should visit Lisbon at least once in their life, but perhaps not from June to August.

How long to spend in Lisbon

Lisbon is quite sprawling and each district has a unique identity. We would recommend a minimum of three full days to see Lisbon, beyond the centre. If you have longer, that’s great. There are plenty of excursions and day trips you can consider in the vicinity of the city and more than enough to keep you entertained.

Below, we have set out how to spend a leisurely but fabulous three days in Lisbon.

Best things to do in Lisbon

Find the best views of Lisbon during your three days in Lisbon

The hills in Lisbon are rather brutal, but after the pain comes the pleasure. One of our favorite things to do in Lisbon is to get to the highest vantage point and take in the spectacular views. Everyone who visits Lisbon probably has their favorite view point (miradouro). The competition is stuff. The three we most regularly frequented were Miradouro de Santa Caterina (a popular spot for sunset drinks in Cais do Sodre), Miradouro da Graca (a more local and romantic haunt in Graca) and Miradouro de Santia Luzia (because it was the closest to our apartment and very beautiful.)

Luckily, Lisbon’s infrastructure is ready to help you out, if the idea of puffing your way up the hill is a little too much. You can also seek out panoramic views from Elevador de Santa Justa. A neo-gothic lift in central Lisbon. If you’d rather not queue, try Elevador da Bica, not in fact an elevator but a tram dedicated to tackling the hills.

Get arty during your three days in Lisbon

Art lovers will be spoilt for choice in this Portuguese capital city. If you only have the chance to see one museum in Lisbon, we highly recommend the Gulbenkian. An art gallery built around a private art collection – and this isn’t your average collection. Unless owning a few Turner paintings is thought of as average. The gallery is in a pretty park setting, so you can spend a few hours in the museum before exploring outside.

If you want to keep up the theme, then you have many alternatives to choose from. There’s the tile museum, a novel choice for art fans. The National Museum of Ancient Art or further away in Belem is the spectacular Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT). This last one is the more expensive of the options, but it’s a crowd pleaser.

If you want something truly unique, you can take a street art tour of Lisbon, which is always a fun way to see an alternative perspective of the city.

Meander around Alfama and Graca during your three days in Lisbon

Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, meander through the colorful buildings stopping to take pictures of the vibrant tiles. There are plenty of bakeries, institutions in this area, serving coffee and a pastel for a morning hit. Alfama really is one of those areas where the best thing is to follow your nose and just keep walking until you’re lost. Here you’ll find traditional tavernas and the Fado clubs, visit in the evening for the unmistakable melancholic sound of Fado music. If you get offered the chance to try ginjinha, a cherry liqueur, being sold by one of the older residents of Alfama, be sure to take it. This brief interaction is bound to put a pep in your step.

In Graca, take in the quirky bars and cafes. Curva is a popular spot for brunch, nearby Savas is more intimate and just as nice. After brunch, continue to explore and visit the quite spectacular Igreja de São Vicente de Fora (church) and he impressive dome shaped National Pathenon which boasts wonderful views of Lisbon. If you visit on a Tuesday or Saturday be sure to peruse the flea market at Santa Clara featuring a number of local artisan products. Take home a souvenir to remember your special three days in Lisbon.

Visit Belem for monasteries and monuments during your three days in Lisbon

Belem, to the west if Lisbon, is where the ocean meets the river. Although a little way out of Lisbon, Belem can be easily accessed by bus. A pleasurable way to spend an afternoon, Belem feels more spacious, quieter and a cooler than the city centre, thanks to the salty Atlantic breeze.

Belem has an important part to play in the history of Portugal, during the age of discovery, it is from here that intrepid sailors would have cast off. There’s a wonderful 1940s monument in place to recognize this important moment. In Belem, you will also find the Belem Tower, a wonderful spot for photographs. It is the Jeronimos Monastery which really will take breath away however, important not only because it was the birth place of Pastel de Nata! Speaking of, do call into Pasteis de Belem, where you can enjoy a tart made to the original recipe.

Cross the water during your three days in Lisbon

It is supremely easy to cross the river Tagus and taking a quick ferry ride. This fast became one of our favorite things to do in Lisbon, especially on an evening. If you’re in Lisbon for longer than a weekend, want to head to Costa Caparica or just want a different perspective on the city, we highly recommend taking a ferry to Cacilhas. This is a buzzy little town with more of a “local” feel, than the city centre – here you can find a range of restaurants including the delightful Syrian place Damasqino.

Across the river is also where you’ll find Ponte Final, a restaurant which featured in the TV show “Somebody feed Phil”, and has now become somewhat of a hotspot. Even if you can’t get a table, take a walk along the water to enjoy the views back to Lisbon. Keep going until you find the free panoramic elevator, but before you jump in, enjoy a short pause in the park which is popular with buskers and young people enjoying the sunset.

Best beaches near Lisbon

Many people coming to Lisbon perhaps don’t consider just how easy it is to visit the coast during a trip to the city. Lisbon is on river Tagus and not on the sea, but the beach is not far away. This makes visiting the beach one of the best things to do in Lisbon, especially when it’s hot in the city. Even if you are in Lisbon for three days only, if you’re a beach fan, you do have time for a quick day trip to the coast.

Beach lovers have two options. Firstly, you can take the main train line from Cais do Sodre station in the direction of Cascais. There are beaches along this route that can be accessed from the train stations. The two most popular are Estoril, a small upmarket town, with a beautiful cove. Or Cascais, a buzzy town with four different beaches to choose from, and a touch of culture in the town too.

Your second option, is to cross the river and head to Costa Caparica. Far less people opt for this stretch of the coast, compared to Cascais. This may be because it seems complicated to get there, or because Cascais is just more famous. Although Costa Caparica could not be described as quiet in the summer, it is certainly much less crowded than Cascias and has a more local vibe.

The added benefit, is that the sweeping beaches go on for mile after mile. Plus, you can surf there or play sports on the beach too, making it a fun day out for the family. Just don’t expect the water to be warm.

Booking provided by Get Your Guide.

Find out how to get to the best beaches in Lisbon here.

Is the Lisbon Card worth it for three days in Lisbon?

The Lisbon Card is a tourist card that you can buy for 24, 48 or 72 hour validity. It gives you free transport, plus free or discounted access to museums and attractions. This includes some of the most expensive ones. It costs 22 Euros per day.

If you plan to travel around the city a lot and visit at least one museum per day, it is probably worth it. More so if you’re planning to visit all the main sites over two to three days. But, do be aware that public transport in Lisbon is fairly cheap, so you’d need to jump on quite a few metros to get your money’s worth.

Rates provided by Get Your Guide.

Best restaurants in Lisbon

Dining in Lisbon is such a fabulous experience. The difficult thing is deciding where to go with so much choice. The dining scene is fast changing, new Michelin stars are being handed out every year, but there remains a decadent mix of shiny new openings and stalwarts that cannot be beaten.

Fancy restaurants in Lisbon

Rocco an elaborate restaurant with the most opulent interior of any restaurant I have seen. Serving up exquisite Italian food, sure to please even the most refined of diners.

Terroir is hailed in the Michelin Guide as a restaurant known for the strong cookery technique. The food is fancy, the but the atmosphere is fairly laid back. Tasting menus are seasonal and there’s even a vegetarian one.

Prado which means “meadow” is where chef António Galapito serves up farm to table modern Portuguese cuisine alongside natural and bio dynamic wines. The tasting menu here is constantly changing, but always reasonably priced.

Mid Range restaurants in Lisbon

Lisboa Tu & Eu (Alfama) if you can get into this place in the summer, you’ll enjoy it. Start to queue at 18:30 to guarantee a table, or join later on the off chance. A smattering of tables outdoors and inside, serving up basic but tasty plates of Portuguese food. Try the Octopus Salad. Note – cash only. If you can’t get a table, try the sister version (Lisboa Tu & Eu 2)

Alfama Cellar (Alfama) a quaint and romantic restaurant serving Portuguese food. There aren’t many tables but you can book. Mid-range pricing, but excellent service in a restaurant known for it’s wine.

Tapisco (Principe Real) Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa normally associated with fine dining runs the Spanish/ Portuguese fusion tapas restaurant. Serving elaborate, Michelin style food, but in a low-key Tapas setting. Tapisco also has a wide selection of Vermouth available at it’s dedicated Vermouth bar.

Budget restaurants in Lisbon

Salsa (Alfama) in every city we stay in, we always have one restaurant that we go back to multiple times. In Lisbon, this is Salsa. A family run place serving up honest and terrific food. Try the seabream and the salt cod braza. If you get lucky, you can grab the window seat overlooking the water.

Leve Leve (Barrio Alto) a very reasonably priced tapas bar in the heart of Barrio Alto. Leve Leve does get popular, but it’s worth the wait for the African Portuguese fusion tapas. Do not leave here without trying to chicken wings.

Anything but sardines

Portuguese food is fabulous. From the salt cod to the chorizo and beans, we enjoyed it all. But, Lisbon is an international city and there are so many cuisines represented here by fantastic restaurateurs. Here are some of the best serving anything but sardines.

Boca Linda (Santos) a classy and authentically Mexican restaurant in the trendy Santos district. A great restaurant for lovers of Mexican food and Margaritas.

Damasqino (Almada) a new and up and coming Syrian restaurant on the other side of the Tagus River. Middle Eastern food authentically served by a friendly group of waiters. A night to remember.

You may notice that we’ve omitted The Time Out Market from this city guide. When we first visited Lisbon nine years ago, this was one of the best places to visit (in my humble opinion.) But, the rest of the city is just TOO GOOD now to justify visiting the market. It has become crowded, noisy and far less chic than it was some time ago. If it’s a rainy day, we can see the draw, but otherwise we suggest skipping it.

Best places to drink in Lisbon

Sunset Drinks in Lisbon

Lisbon comes alive in the evening. Once the sun starts to set, crowds flock to the miardouros (view points) all across the city to enjoy a drink with friends or a lover and toast to the end of another fabulous day in the city. Some of the best places to drink in Lisbon are actually not bars, but view points. Grab a few superbock beers (mini-markets with offer a bottle opener) or a bottle of wine between two and follow the crowds. The best view point in the city to enjoy the sunset and drinks is Miradouro de Santa Caterina. A vast space with seating and uninterrupted views, punctuated by the sound of chatter and the occasional guitar strumming.

Wine Bars to enjoy during three days in Lisbon

Wine, and Port, are of course ubiquitous in Lisbon. But, if you’re after a truly special experience, you may want to consider one of our recommendations.

Black Sheep Wine Bar (Barrio Alto) – an intimate wine bar known for natural wines.

Wine Senses (Alfama)– a small wine tasting bar in Alfama, sample four wines for as little as 5 Euros.

By the wine (Cais do Sodre) – a vaulted bar serving up the best selection of wine in Lisbon.

Cocktails in Lisbon

If you’re heading out for cocktails in Lisbon, be sure to try at least one glass of White Port with Tonic, a staple throughout the city during the hot summer.

Pharmacia (Cais do Sodre) – a special setting for outdoor cocktails in the garden of this grand building.

Monkey Mash (Principe Real) – top notch service and specialist cocktails in a fun bar. By the same owners as renowned Red Frog Speakeasy.

Gin Lovers (Principe Real)– a vast bar dedicated to all things gin! Just around the corner from Monkey Mash.

Craft Beer to enjoy during three days in Lisbon

When it comes to craft beer in Lisbon, there’s plenty of choice. Some places are a little less about the beer and more about the crafty prices. Here are three of the best.

AMO Brewery an intimate micro-brewery high up in the Pena area. It has a nice community feel and you can sample before you commit to a choice.

Dois Corvos Brewery is a little way out of the centre, but offers a great space. A large building with an interesting selection of beers. There are a few breweries in this area, so you can enjoy quite a pub crawl.

Cerveja Canil Marques is a cool bar In Pena. Here you can pour yourself a range of different beers, choosing the size you want. There’s also live music and they serve excellent burgers.

Where to stay for three days in Lisbon

Lisbon is sprawling with a number of districts to choose from. Where you base yourself may have a bearing on the experience you have, so it’s important to pick the right district for you. Our guide below shows some of the most popular areas to stay in for tourists visiting Lisbon.

Where to stay on a budget for three days in Lisbon

Home Lisbon Hostel is a popular option in the heart of the Baixa district. Rates of around 35 Euros. Female only, mixed dorms or private rooms available. Guests love the daily activities and social vibe.

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This is Lisbon Hostel offers clean and comfortable accommodation in the heart of Alfama. What’s more, it has a huge roof terrace. Rates of around 25 Euros.

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Mid-range options for three days in Lisbon

The Felix 10 is a design chic bed and breakfast that has undergone a recent renovation. Set on the edge of Cais do Sodre, the property also features a roof terrace. Rates of around 170 Euros.

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Rossio Plaza Hotel has an excellent location in the centre of Rossio. The smart rooms and central location make this a favorite with tourists visiting Lisbon. Rates from around 200 Euros.

Where to stay in luxury for three days in Lisbon

Palácio Ludovice Wine Experience Hotel is a 5 star treat bang in the centre of Lisbon, just a few hundred metres from Rossio. Choose this place for luxurious rooms and a palatial hotel building. Rates of around 450 Euros.

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The Vintage Hotel & Spa Lisbon is a plush 5 star hotel just off Avenida de Liberdade, complete with sprawling rooftop terrace and swimming pool. A fancy hotel in Lisbon’s very fancy district. Rates of around 300 Euros.

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If you’re travelling to Lisbon with your significant other, you can find our detailed guide on where to stay in Lisbon for the most romantic experience here.

How to travel around Lisbon

Lisbon has an abundance of public transport. It remains a very walk-able city, but do keep in mind that there are many hills and steps in Lisbon. If you are planning to walk from A to B, make sure you leave enough time to do so.

The metro in Lisbon is easy to navigate, there are four lines. The yellow, the blue, the red and the green. A combination of these can be used easily to get around to most places in the centre of the city. You can also use the metro to get to and from the airport. Contactless card is accepted on the metro, but we recommend getting a “zapping” card if you plan to use other transport.

The buses in Lisbon are good and reliable. Just keep in mind that Lisbon can be quite busy when it comes to traffic, so expect that buses will take longer if the roads are busy. You can use a zapping card or cash but not contactless on the bus network.

Ferries will take you across the water to River Tagus to a number of different dropping off points. Depending on where you are going, it can be quicker to get the boat than cross the bridge by bus or cab. You can use a Zapping card for the ferries too, but again no contactless.

The train network can take you to places like Cascais and Estroil. They run regularly but do get crowded, especially in the summer. If you’re heading to Cascais, it’s best to get on at Cais do Sodre, if you want to get a seat at peak times. Zapping cards or tickets can be used, but no contactless.

Want to get around quicker?

For the more adventurous, Lisbon is fast becoming a hot stop for E-Scooters. Set up an app and pay on your phone and you’ll soon be on your way. Just look out for all those cobbles!

Finally, you have cabs in Lisbon. Uber works well and there are plenty of drivers. You can also venture onto a Tuk Tuk, but they aren’t the cheapest mode of transport to be found!

How to get to Lisbon

Lisbon has it’s own large international airport. Flight time from London is two hours and forty minutes and New York is only six hours and fifty minutes This makes it a popular place to fly into with many airlines serving it.

Rates provided by Sky Scanner.

For anyone coming from the UK, don’t forget that Lisbon is on the same time zone as British Summer Time so you won’t lose an hour when you arrive!

If you are also planning to visit more of Portugal, you can find our guides to Albufeira here and Porto here.

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